“And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…” is a refrain from Elton John’s classic 1972 hit ‘Rocket man’, and for me it has indeed been “a long, long time” since I saw him live. In fact it was 11 years (June 2006) since I saw him play at my beloved ‘The Valley’ – the first time in 30 years that anyone had played live there (the joke among Charlton Athletic fans, is that it is almost as long since any of our players have played on the football pitch there!).
So, I paid my £85 and took my seat at the magnificent Genting Arena in Birmingham (NEC as was) along with another 10,000 fans, and Elton, although now 70 is still probably the finest showman out there and delivered for his Birmingham fans a tremendous 2 hour 20 minute set of music that left people well pleased, entertained and got their full money’s worth.
Elton came on and started with his trademark song ‘The Bitch is Back’ (1974) to get everyone into the right mood from the off and then covered pretty much the whole repertory of his and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s music- from ‘Take Me To the Pilot’ (1970) to ‘ Looking Up’ (from his latest 2016 album ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’).
In total, Elton and his band covered 22 songs from harder rock like ‘Bennie And The Jets’ (1974) to ballads such as ‘Daniel’ (1973).
In between Elton took time out to talk to the audience and there was a moving tribute to George Michael with ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ (1974)and a most heartfelt ‘I Want Love’ (2001)dedicated to those who died in the Manchester and London Bridge terrorist attacks.
Elton’s shows are great ‘pick me ups’ and no matter what mood you enter the arena in, you know that it will not be long before you are gonna be up and dancing. Here, it was the trio of ‘’Crocodile Rock’ (1973), ‘Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock And Roll)’ (1973) and ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ (1973) that got people surging forwards.
However, Elton is often at his best with his slower numbers and no more so than probably the first song that brought him acclaim with ‘Your Song’ (1970)- it is strange to think that it is 47 years old but it still holds an audience together when the lights go down and they hear those Bernie Taupin words of “ It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside…”. A tale of naïve, simplistic first love that still has the ability to get down into your soul.
Elton is into audience participation and no more so than with ‘Crocodile Rock’ with the fans singing back the ‘la,lal,la’ in the chorus and them singing together ‘Your Song’ which fans know by heart.
Elton’s band on the night including long time collaborators Davy Johnston on guitar and Nigel Olsson on drums and everyone on stage and in the seats and aisles seemed to have a blast. I was sat with two ladies from Walsall who had the best of times and as I looked around the audience -that seemed to run from teenagers to those in their mid 70’s- everyone seemed to be forgetting the troubles they might have outside, and for a few hours be taken out of themselves and allowed Elton and his music do the healing…..